2017 in Review: The Best of SyFy


Continuing my look back at the best of 2017, today is the day that I reveal my picks for the best SyFy movies and performances of the previous year!

But before I do that, a plea to the SyFy Network.  I make this plea every year and it never does any good.  It probably won’t do any good this year.  But still, I’m going to make it.  SyFy, give us more original films!  From a business point of view, I can understand why SyFy shifted their focus from movies to episodic television.  But I’m not a business person!  I’m a movie lover, one who has wonderful memories of when every weekend would bring another gloriously over-the-top SyFy movie.

Those were wonderful days and it’s sad that the only time that I get to relive them is either during Shark Week or during October.

Seriously, SyFy — give us more original movies!

With that in mind, here are my picks for the best of 2017 SyFy:

(All credits are based on what’s listed at the imdb.  If anyone has been incorrectly credited or left out, please leave a comment and I will correct the mistake.)

Best PictureHouse of the Witch (produced by Neil Elman, Margaret Huddleston, Bryan Sexton)

This haunted house movie was effectively creepy and featured some unexpectedly starting imagery.  Runners-up (and it was a close race): Trailer Park Shark, Sharknado 5, and The Sandman.

Best Director — Griff Furst for Trailer Park Shark

The idea of sharks attacking a trailer park sounds like a huge joke but Furst crafted it into a compelling and entertaining story that celebrated redneck ingenuity.

Best Actor — Ian Ziering in Sharknado 5

The fifth time is the charm as Ziering gives his best performance so far as the chainsaw-wielding Finn.

Best Actress — Haylie Duff in The Sandman

Duff brings some much-needed gravity to the role of a formerly irresponsible aunt trying to save her niece from a monster made of sand.

Best Supporting Actor — Jason London in Mississippi River Sharks and Dennis Haskins in Trailer Park Shark

As much as I tried, I simply could not make a choice between London’s comedic performance (as himself) and Dennis Haskins’s villainous turn.  So, we have a tie!

Best Supporting Actress — Shae Smolik in The Sandman

As the girl being haunted by the Sandman, Smolik gave a refreshingly realistic performance.

Best Screenplay — Neil Elman for House of the Witch

This is the third year in a row that Neil Elman has won in this category.

Best Cinematography — Dane Lawing for House of the Witch

House of the Witch feature some truly haunting images.  In my review, I raved about one shot in particular, of a pickup truck driving across the desolate landscape in the middle of the night.

Best Costumes — Mary-Sue Morris for Empire of the Sharks and Kendra Terpenning for Neverknock

Another tie.  Empire of the Sharks proved that, just because the world’s ending, that doesn’t mean you can’t look good,  Neverknock’s costumes made good use of the Halloween setting, especially with Lola Flannery’s devil costume.

Best Editing — Anna Florit and Ryan Michelle for Sharknado 5

In 2017, Sharknado 5 took us on a trip around the world, offered up nonstop action, and there was never a boring moment.

Best Makeup — Madeleine Botha for Empire of the Sharks

Again, just because the world’s ending, that doesn’t mean you can’t look good.

Best Score — Andrew Morgan Smith for Trailer Park Shark

The score brought the bayou, the trailer park, and the shark to life!

Best Production Design — Anthony Stabley and Dana Rice for House of the Witch

Seriously, that house was so creepy!

Best Sound — Dylan Blount, Leandro Cassan, Jonathan Iglecias , Mitchell Kohen, Chris Polczinski, Mike Varela for House of the Witch

It wasn’t just the way the house looked in House of the Witch that made it a creepy place.  It was also the way that every sound in the background could have just been someone stumbling around or it could have been the witch about to jump out and rip off someone’s fingers.

Best Visual Effects — Craig Bassuk, Sasha Burrow, Yancy Calzada, Glenn Campbell , Yolanda Charlo Rodriguez, Aine Graham, John Karner, Tammy Klein, Mark Kochinski , Kevin Lane, Christian McIntire, James Payfer, Richard A. Payne, Paul Runyan, Chris Simmons, Scott Wheeler, Aaron Witlin,
Al Magliochetti for Sharknado 5

Keep those sharks flying!

Tomorrow, my look back at 2017 continues with my list of good things that I saw on television last year (not counting, of course, all of the good things that I just mentioned in this post).

Previous entries in the TSL’s Look Back at 2017:

  1. 2017 in Review: Top Ten Single Issues by Ryan C
  2. 2017 in Review: Top Ten Series by Ryan C
  3. 2017 In Review: Top Ten Collected Edition (Contemporary) by Ryan C
  4. 2017 In Review: Top Ten Collected Editions (Vintage) by Ryan C
  5. 2017 in Review: Top Ten Graphic Novels By Ryan C
  6. 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I saw in 2017 by Valerie Troutman
  7. My Top 15 Albums of 2017 by Necromoonyeti
  8. 2017 In Review: Lisa Marie’s Picks For the 16 Worst Films of 2017
  9. 2017 In Review: Lisa Marie’s Final Post About Twin Peaks: The Return (for now)
  10. 2017 in Review: Lisa Marie’s 14 Favorite Songs of 2017

 

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Let’s Talk About Trailer Park Shark (dir by Griff Furst)


Oh hell yeah!

Listen, if you ever find yourself being unexpectedly menaced by a shark, you’re going to want a redneck around.  Trust me on this.  I may not be one myself but I’ve grown up around rednecks and I feel a lot safer around them than I do with sensitive types from up north.  Seriously, if you’re under shark attack, who do you want protecting you?  A guy with a gun and a cooler full of beer or someone who drives a Prius?  Elon Musk may be smarter but, when it comes to sharks, Trace Adkins is going to be more helpful.

The other great thing about rednecks is that there’s nothing that they can’t do with duct tape.  Give a redneck enough duct tape and a weather satellite and I guarantee that he’ll find a way to stop climate change.  There’s a name for that: redneck ingenuity.

When I was watching Trailer Park Shark on Wednesday night, I was impressed with the amount of duct tape on display.  As the main character, a redneck played by Thomas Ian Nicholas, was using duct tape to solve yet another problem, I tweeted that I was enjoying the music playing in the background.  To me, it sounded like something that Ennio Morricone would have come up with for a spaghetti western.  It fit the scene perfectly because Trailer Park Shark is a film that make duct tape feel just as epic as the final cemetery confrontation in The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.  Andrew Morgan Smith, who did excellent work on the film’s score, informed me that the musical cue was called “Redneck Ingenuity.”

That’s a perfect name because, while Trailer Park Shark is about a lot of things, it is ultimately a celebration of redneck ingenuity and the never-give-up attitude of  life in the Southern bayou.  The characters in Trailer Park Shark have a lot to deal with.  Because of a freak rains storm and some evil plotting by mean old Mr. Deconnard (Dennis Haskins), their trailer park has been flooded.  And with the flood has come a shark!  It would be easy to give up, especially when people and horses start getting eaten.  But no one surrenders to fate!  No one gives up!

It’s a lot of fun, as any movie about a shark attacking a trailer park should be.  All of the characters in the park are memorable in their redneck way.  Even with the majority of the park underwater and neighbors getting eaten left and right, they’re still just as likely to be fighting each other as they are the shark.  While I personally have never lived in a trailer park, I’ve lived close to a few and I’ve spent a few nights visiting and this film gets the atmosphere just right.  Griff Furst, who is something of a specialist when it comes to bayou chaos, brings this location to life.  From the very first tracking shot to the film’s action-packed finale, the bayou feels alive.  You can easily imagine this location and these people existing long before the cameras started rolling.  The relationships feel real.

Speaking of feeling real, I always suspected that Dennis Haskins had the ability to play a really evil character.  Seriously, go watch the earliest episodes of Saved By The Bell and you’ll see some hints of darkness underneath Mr. Belding’s goofy exterior.  That said, Haskins does such a good job playing this film’s villain that you eventually forget that you’re watching Mr. Belding threatening to kill people.  Instead, he’s just a very bad man with an interesting preference in weapons.

(Speaking of weapons, Tara Reid also shows up, playing a trailer park resident who has a wide variety of weapons at her disposal.  Though her role is small, her appearance allows for some playful poking at the Sharknado franchise.)

I liked Trailer Park Shark.  It’s a blast of pure entertainment and my favorite of the recent SyFy shark movies.  Since SyFy reruns everything a hundred times, keep an eye out for it!

Watch it in honor of the rednecks who keep us safe from sharks, often at the cost of life, limb, and satellite dish.

What Lisa and Megan Watched Last Night #96: Saved By The Bell 2.9 “Jessie’s Song” (dir by Don Barnhart)


Last night, my sister Megan and I watched the classic 1990 Saved By The Bell caffeine pill episode, Jessie’s Song.

Why Were We Watching It?

I was visiting Megan and her family for the holidays, she has every episode of Saved By The Bell on DVD — seriously, how could we not end up watching it?

What Was It About?

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times and things at Bayside High were pretty messed up.  Self-declared genius Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley) was failing Geometry so she started taking caffeine pills.  Then, her sociopathic friend Zack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) decided that Jessie should also launch a musical career as a member of the disturbingly generic girl group Hot Sundae.  And who can blame him with all of this talent of display?

 And so, Jessie started taking more and more pills.  And then, this happened…

Fear not!  Jessie recovered from her drug addiction in time to be featured in Johnny Dakota’s No Hope With Dope ad campaign.

What Worked?

Jessie’s Song is like The Room of Saved By The Bell episodes, 22 minutes of television that is just so wrong and oddly executed that it becomes oddly fascinating.  For that reason, it’s impossible to judge this episode by standard definitions of quality.

The idea that Kelly, Lisa, and Jessie (a.k.a. Hot Sundae) could get a recording contract, the fact that Jessie ends up getting hooked on the equivalent of can of Red Bull, the fantasy sequence where Jessie imagines having to go to Surf U. because she failed Geometry, the fact that a few pills transform Jessie overnight, and the overly optimistic ending; none of it works.  And, for that reason, the entire episode works.

Consider this — before I had even seen this episode, I knew that Jessie Spano ended up getting hooked on caffeine pills and singing, “I’m so excited!  I’m so excited!  I’m so …. SCARED!”  For better or worse, this episode is a part of our culture.

On a personal note, I loved the extremely earnest way Mario Lopez delivered the line, “Hold on, Jessie — it says right here that these may be habit-forming…”

What Did Not Work?

As Megan pointed out to me, there’s a huge continuity error in this episode.  Back in the glee club episode, it had been established that Kelly couldn’t sing.  Now, suddenly, she’s on the verge of getting a recording contract.  Was there no such thing as a consistency at Bayside?  No wonder Jessie ended up addicted to drugs.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

Much like Jessie Spano, I have a tendency to push myself.  Whereas Jessie pushed herself to attend an Ivy League college and to try to destroy the patriarchy, I push myself to post a certain amount of film reviews each month.

For instance, earlier this year, I decided that I would post at least 120 reviews in October.  And so, much like Jessie, I pushed myself and pushed myself and, when I felt like I couldn’t go on, I took every pill that I had in the medicine cabinet and then I danced around my bedroom going, “I’m so excited!  I’m so excited!  I’m so … scared!”

And some people though that was silly on my part but you know what?  This October, the TSL posted 137 new reviews so, obviously, I was doing something right.  And I’ve already decided that next year, we’re going to break all previous records.  That’s right — 200 posts in October of 2014!  You read it here first.

And, to think, I owe it all to caffeine.

Lessons Learned

There’s no hope with dope!  Wait … no, actually, that was a different episode.  In this one, I guess I learned not to abuse caffeine but I really didn’t learn that because I’ve seen this episode a few dozen times and I’m still addicted to caffeine and, for that matter, I’m still pushing myself and having trouble accepting that I can’t always be the best at everything so maybe I didn’t learn anything from this episode…

Oh wait!  I did learn something.  Geometry leads to drug addiction and causes you to let all of your friends down.

Seriously, geometry sucks.

(For another look at drug abuse in the 1990s, please be sure to check out my review of the California Dreams steroid episode, Tiffani’s Gold.)

What Lisa And Megan Watched Last Night #61: Saved By The Bell: The New Class S2E9 “Belding’s Prank” (dir by Don Barnhart)


Last night, as Christmas came to a close, my sister Megan and I continued to celebrate the holiday week by bonding over yet another episode of a bad (yet oddly addictive) 90s sitcom.  Last night, we watched “Belding’s Prank,” an episode from the 2nd season of Saved By The Bell: The New Class.

Why Were We Watching It?

You can read the full details here but, long story short, I’m spending my holiday week in Ft. Worth with my sister Megan and Megan (because she’s the best) has every episode of Saved By The Bell: The New Class on DVD.  When I learned this, I naturally became super excited because, when I was too young to know any better, I used to watch SBTB: TNC every Saturday morning.  Anyway,  for the past few days, Megan and I have been bonding over bad sitcoms from the 90s.

(For the record, Megan claims that, if she ever saw a single first-run episode of SBTB, it was just because she was waiting for California Dreams to come on.)

Last night, we watched several episodes of SBTB: The New Class but the one that made the biggest impression on me was the 9th episode of the 2nd season, Belding’s Prank.

(Before anyone asks, yes — we both would have rather been watching Django Unchained or Les Miserables but yesterday, it snowed!  Needless to say, we were all excited to look out the window and see snow falling on Christmas.  We had fun playing in the snow but there was no way that any of us we were planning on trying to drive in it.  Seriously, we live in Texas, where 80 degrees is considered to be a cold front.  We don’t know the first thing about driving in the snow.)

What Was It About?

SBTB: TNC was infamous for changing its cast of characters almost every season.  When I first saw the show, the main character was Ryan (played by the adorable Richard Lee Jackson) but what I didn’t realize was that Ryan was actually the third main character.  He was preceded by a guy named Scott and another guy named Brian Keller.  Belding’s Prank is a Brian episode.  When we first started watching this episode, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to follow the episode because I didn’t know much about Brian (played by Christian Oliver) as a character.  However, I quickly discovered that Brian had absolutely the exact same personality as Ryan (and, I assume, Scott) and therefore, it really didn’t matter.

Anyway, in Belding’s Plot, it’s prank week at Bayside!  Brian is encouraging everyone to engage in increasingly elaborate pranks.  Bayside’s principal, Mr. Belding (Dennis Haskins), thinks that it’s all a lot of fun.  However, Belding’s assistant, Screech (Dustin Diamond) is concerned because there’s a new district superintendent and he could drop by the school at any minute.  It appears that Mr. Belding has yet to meet (or even see) the new superintendent (which is kinda odd when you think about it) and when the superintendent does show up, Belding assumes that it’s a prank.  The superintendent, meanwhile, sees that Bayside is in chaos and he promptly fires Mr. Belding.

This is where things get weird.  The superintendent holds a school assembly to introduce the new principal.  Since this is Saved By The Bell, there’s only about 20 students at the assembly.  Anyway, before the superintendent can announce the new principal, Brian stands up and shouts, “We don’t want a new principal!  We want Mr. Belding back!”  Now, instead of suspending Brian for disrupting a school assembly, the superintendent replies that the students should have respected their principal if they liked him so much.

“Here’s your new principal,” the superintendent announces, “Mr. Richard Belding!”

Mr. Belding steps out on stage.  The 20 students at the assembly go wild.  So, was Mr. Belding really fired or was he just playing a prank on the students?  Or did Brian’s words sway the superintendent?

Seriously, what the Hell’s going on?

What Worked?

Say what you will about this episode overall, it’s here that Dennis Haskins gave perhaps his best performance in the role of Mr. Belding.  When Belding came out of his office and told the assembled student, “I’ve been fired,” you truly felt both the man’s pain and the disappointment he felt towards the entitled students who had just ruined his life.  I may be wrong but I’m pretty sure that Haskins even had tears in his eyes as he delivered the line.

What Did Not Work?

Okay, let’s ignore the obvious flaws.  I won’t go into the odd logic of the film’s plot.  I won’t mention the fact that the student body at Bayside High appears to be abnormally powerful and influential for a bunch of public school students.  I won’t even talk about the fact that Dustin Diamond is in this episode.

However, I am going to point out one of the most glaring continuity flaws in the history of this show.

As you may remember, in the original Saved By The Bell, Belding’s office was this tiny and depressing room with ugly wood paneling and a window that was never opened.  Starting with the second season of The New Class, Belding got a new cheerful office.  This office was much larger, much more colorful, and it had large windows that showed off the green campus of Bayside High.  A good deal of this episode took place in Belding’s “new” office and, watching it, I couldn’t help but think about how much more cheerful Belding seemed to be now that his office was less oppressive.

However, if you’ll remember, there was a flash forward episode of the original Saved By The Bell that took place in 2003.  This was the episode where a bunch of students gathered in the principal’s office so that they could watch a video time capsule left behind for them by Zach, Slater, and Screech.  In this episode, it’s established that Mr. Belding is still principal of Bayside in 2003…

AND HE’S BACK IN HIS OLD OFFICE!

But that’s not all!  When SBTB: TNC ended in 2000 (3 years before the time capsule episode), it was established that Belding was leaving Bayside so that he could take a job as dean of a college in Tennessee.  It was also suggested that Screech (despite never having graduated from college) would be his replacement as principal…

So, what happened during those 3 years that led to Belding returning to Bayside and moving back into his old office?  And why did Belding pretend like he barely remembered Screech while watching that time capsule video?

Seriously, this was really bugging me last night.  Fortunately, it turned out that it was really bugging Megan as well.  We spent about half an hour trying to figure out what had happened and we came up several possible scenarios, all of which concluded with Belding returning to California and murdering Screech in one grisly way or another.

Seriously, we had a lot of fun with it.

“OH MY GOD!  Just like me!” Moments

None.  Everyone in this episode was just too stupid.

Lessons Learned

It’s fun to come up with grisly ways to kill off an annoying character.